Johnson and Dussault collect national cross-country titles


Johnson and Dussault collect national cross-country titles{mosimage}Birthday boy Andrew Johnson of Greensboro, Vermont, collected the first U.S. title of his career and Rebecca Dussault of Gunnison, Colorado, picked up her fifth Monday with opening wins at the U.S. Cross Country Championships. The title races returned to the Olympic venue for the first time in five years, with a 30K for men and a 15K for women.

With about 400 racers registered for the week-long championships, racing took off under an overcast sky and the men’s field of 120 was hit briefly with wet, sluggish snow before clearing by the end of the race.

Johnson, a 2002 Olympian who turned 27, claimed his first U.S. gold medal in 1:18.41.6 for the men’s 30K freestyle race, which was four laps around the hilly, Olympic network of trails. Carl Swenson (Park City, UT) was silver medalist in 1:19:05.6 with Dave Chamberlain (Bethel, ME) in third place (1:09.06.3).

“There’ve been a lot of times I thought I’d win one, but getting this first title, and getting it on the first day of the championships, feels good,” said Johnson, who took leave from his studies at Middlebury College to help start the U.S. Residency Program in neighboring Park City after the 1999 season. Now, the entire U.S. Cross Country Team trains in Park City during the preseason.

“This was definitely tough,” he said. “I started pretty well and I ended pretty well but there were some tough moments in the middle of the race. I got cramps in my legs at about 20 Ks; that slowed me down and I got the point where for a couple of Ks – mostly on the steep uphills – where I slowed significantly, but then the cramps went away.”

Johnson, who was 22nd in the 2002 Olympic 30K freestyle, said he could see some trail “tweaks and changes…but it’s still as tough as ever.”

Earlier, in the women’s 15K free, Dussault won the gold medal in 44:54.8 with Abi Larson (Bozeman, MT) timed in 45 minutes flat. Bronze medalist in the field of 96 was Brooke Baughman (Ketchum, ID), who finished in 45:12.0.

“It was so tough…certainly a lot closer than I was looking for,” Dussault said. “I was losing until the last hill and I said, ‘I’ve worked this hard, I might as well give it every last ounce of energy I have’…and something worked. But Abi had such a great race. I had lots of splits, so I knew where I was and where everybody was…and when I started that hill I was six seconds back, and I wondered ‘How am I gonna win this thing? This isn’t going at all the way I planned.”

Dussault, the defending SuperTour champion and current leader, called Soldier Hollow “just the hardest place because there’s no recovery. It was partly sunny when we started and the snow stayed firm and fast…but it’s such a tough course. I went out really conservative because I wanted to make sure I had something for that second lap.”

U.S. Coach Trond Nystad said he was pleased for the two winners “and we’re really excited about the skiing by some of the juniors – Margan Arritola [Sun Valley Ski Team - Sun Valley, ID] finishing fourth, Laurie Spector [Gren Mountain Valley School - Waitsfield, VT] in seventh…just outstanding skiing.

“It was tough, of course…a tough race on a tough course, but the guys got hit with a small storm of wet snow and that made some difference. The last lap was the deciding one,” Nystad said. “Andrew’s win was very popular and coming on his birthday made it a little more special.”

The championships, which go until Jan. 10, continue Wednesday with classic races, the men’s 10K and women’s 5K, to be followed Thursday by freestyle races over the same distances.

2005 CHEVROLET U.S. CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Soldier Hollow, UT – Jan. 3, 2005
Men’s 30K Freestyle

1. Andrew Johnson, Greensboro, Vt., 1:18.41.6
2. Carl Swenson, Park City, Utah, 1:19.05.6
3. Dave Chamberlain, Bethel, Maine, 1:19.06.3
4. John Bauer, Duluth, Minn., 1:20.20.7
5. Nathan Schultz, Boulder, Colo., 1:21.08.9
6. Lars Flora, Anchorage, Alaska, 1:21.09.5
7. Rob Whitney, Anchorage, Alaska, 1:22.05.7
8. Leif Zimmerman, Bozeman, Mont., 1:22.34.2
9. Justin Easter, Bozeman, Mont., 1:22.47.7
10. Lowell Bailey, Lake Placid, N.Y., 1:22.54.8
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Women’s 15K Freestyle
1. Rebecca Dussault, Gunnison, Colo., 44:54.8
2. Abi Larson, Bozeman, Mont., 45:00.0
3. Brooke Baughmann, Ketchum, Idaho, 45:12.0
4. Morgan Arritola, Sun Valley, Idaho, 45:56.8
5. Johanna Turunen, Fairbanks, Alaska, 46:20.8
6. Laura Spector, Waitsfield, Vt., 46:26.8
7. Lindsay Williams, St. Paul, Minn., 46:43.3
8. Natalie Ward, Bozeman, Mont., 47:10.9
9. Kristina Owen, Houghton, Mich., 47:19.1
10. Tara Sheahan, Boulder, Colo., 47:25.4



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